How to Format an Essay: Different Styles and Examples

format an essay

Crafting essays is a big part of school, and it's not just about putting ideas in order. Schools often want essays in a certain way, like using MLA, APA, or Chicago styles. Each essay format has its own way of doing things, like how you set up your title page, the spacing you use, and even how you write your name. It might seem like a lot, but it's just about making your essay look neat and organized.

You might use these formats from high school all the way to college, so getting the hang of them early on is a good idea. They're kind of like the toolkit you need for presenting your ideas in a way that everyone can understand. But don't worry; in this article, our expert essay writers will break down every detail for you!

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What is an Essay Format?

An essay format is the blueprint that shapes the presentation of your ideas. While it provides a framework, creativity and individual style can still shine through in your piece. When stuck with wondering how to write an academic essay, it is a tool to organize your thoughts effectively and ensure your message is conveyed with clarity and impact. Here's a breakdown of essential elements in different formats of writing:

Title page:

  • Includes the title of your paper, your name, the name of your institution, and the date.
  • Follow any specific formatting guidelines provided by your instructor or institution.


  • A concise summary of your essay.
  • Highlights the main objectives, methods, results, and conclusions of your study.
  • Usually, it's a brief overview, typically around 150 to 250 words.

Table of contents:

  • An organized list of the main sections and subsections in your essay.
  • Includes page numbers for quick reference.
  • Helps readers navigate through the document easily.


  • Provides background information on the topic.
  • States the research question or thesis.
  • Outlines the scope and purpose of the study.

Literature review:

  • Surveys existing study and scholarly articles relevant to your topic.
  • Demonstrates your understanding of the current state of knowledge in the field.
  • Identifies gaps or areas where your research contributes.


  • Describes the study design, methods, and procedures used in your study.
  • Allows others to replicate your research.
  • Clarifies the rationale behind your chosen methods.

Research question or hypothesis:

  • Clearly states the question or hypothesis your research aims to address.
  • Guides the reader in understanding the purpose of your study.


  • Presents the findings of your study.
  • Often includes data, statistics, graphs, or tables.
  • Focuses on objective reporting without interpretation.


  • Analyzes and interprets the results in the context of the research question.
  • Discusses the implications and significance of the findings.
  • Compares results with existing literature.


  • Summarizes the key points of your study.
  • Restates the thesis and its significance.
  • Offers suggestions for future study.

References or works cited:

  • Lists all sources cited in your essay.
  • Follows a specific citation format (e.g., APA, MLA).


  • Includes supplementary materials, such as raw data, surveys, or additional details.
  • Items that are too extensive for the main body but are essential for understanding your study.

How to Write an Essay in MLA Format?

The MLA format is commonly employed in humanities, setting it apart from other academic writing styles. When tackling an essay in MLA format, it's crucial to follow a set of clear guidelines:


  • Opt for 12pt Times New Roman for uniformity.


  • Maintain consistent double spacing throughout the essay.
  • Steer clear of additional spaces, particularly between paragraphs.


  • Position the heading in the upper left corner of the initial page.
  • Include essential details: your name (e.g., Leah Brown), the teacher's/professor's name (e.g., Josh Parker), the class (depending on the course/class), and the date (e.g., 14 May 2018).


  • Set one-inch margins on all sides—top, bottom, left, and right.

Page numbers:

  • Ensure your last name and page number appear as a header on every page.


  • Center the essay title above the essay's first line.
  • Keep it in the same font and size as the rest of the essay.


  • Utilize the tab key for consistent indentation (1/2 inch).


  • Align text to the left-hand side evenly for a neat appearance.

Essay in MLA Format Example

The Impact of Technology on Modern Society


The rapid advancement of technology has become a defining characteristic of the 21st century. This essay explores the profound impact of technology on various aspects of modern society, including communication, education, and the workplace (Smith 1).

Body Paragraphs:

Technology has revolutionized the way we communicate. With the rise of smartphones and social media platforms, individuals can connect instantly, transcending geographical boundaries. This ease of communication has both positive and negative implications, influencing the dynamics of personal relationships and societal interactions (Jones 45).

In the realm of education, technology has transformed traditional learning methods. Online courses and digital resources provide accessibility to a wealth of information. However, the digital divide remains a challenge, highlighting disparities in access to educational opportunities (Brown 112).

The integration of technology in the workplace has streamlined processes, enhancing efficiency. Remote work has become more prevalent, allowing for flexibility and global collaboration (Miller 78).


In conclusion, the adoption of technology has reshaped various facets of modern society. Understanding its implications on communication, education, and the workplace is crucial for navigating the challenges and opportunities presented by the digital age (Smith 2).

Works Cited

Brown, A. "The Digital Divide in Education." Journal of Educational Technology, vol. 30, no. 2, 2019, pp. 112–130.

Jones, R. Social Media, and Society: An Analysis. Academic Press, 2020.

Miller, C. "Technology and Workplace Efficiency." Journal of Business Technology, vol. 45, no. 3, 2018, pp. 76–89.

Smith, J. "The Digital Revolution." Modern Tech Review, vol. 15, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1–15.

How to Write an Essay in APA Format?

Familiarizing yourself with the APA format is essential, as it is commonly used in college essays. The basic APA format includes guidelines similar to those of other essay formats:

  • Font: Use 12pt Times New Roman.
  • Spacing: Double-space the entire document.
  • Margins: Maintain one-inch margins on all sides.
  • Page Numbers: Insert a header at the top left of each page with a shortened name (below 50 characters) and a page number at the top right.
  • Title Page: Include the title, author's name, institutional affiliation, and additional details like course name, instructor name, and date.

Headings: Bold and title case for all headings. Different levels of headings have specific additional criteria.

Example of Essay in APA Format

The Impact of Social Media on Interpersonal Relationships


The ubiquitous presence of social media has fundamentally altered the landscape of interpersonal relationships in contemporary society. This essay delves into the multifaceted impact of social media on personal connections, exploring both positive and negative aspects.

Body Paragraphs:

Social media facilitates seamless communication and connection across geographical boundaries. Individuals can stay in touch, share experiences, and build relationships, fostering a sense of global community (Johnson, 2018).

However, the constant exposure to curated online personas may contribute to feelings of inadequacy and societal comparison (Smith & Davis, 2019). The pursuit of perfection, often portrayed on social media, can strain real-life relationships.

The abbreviated nature of online communication, characterized by emojis and short messages, has altered traditional communication styles. While it enhances efficiency, it may also lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations (Jones, 2020).


In conclusion, the impact of social media on interpersonal relationships is complex, with both positive and negative consequences. Understanding these dynamics is crucial for individuals navigating the evolving landscape of personal connections in the digital age.


Johnson, A. (2018). The Global Village: Social Connectedness in the Digital Era. Journal of Communication, 42(3), 127-140.

Smith, R., & Davis, L. (2019). Social Media and Self-Esteem: A Comparative Analysis. Journal of Collective Psychology, 55(2), 201-215.

Jones, M. (2020). Shaping Communication: The Impact of Emojis on Online Interaction. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Collective Networking, 33(4), 432-445.


Before delving into the nuances of the APA essay format, it's essential to distinguish between the two formatting styles. Let's first explore their similarities:

  • Both APA and MLA formatting styles share commonalities in terms of spacing, citation, and indentation.
  • All information used within the essay must be properly represented in the works cited page (referred to as the reference page in APA).
  • Both styles make use of parenthetical citations within the body of the essay, typically to highlight specific quotes or calculations.
  • Citations are organized alphabetically on the works cited/reference page.

Now, let's briefly touch on the key differences:

  • MLA style is primarily used in humanities, while APA format is more geared towards the social sciences.
  • The list of sources assumes different names—MLA employs 'works cited,' while APA uses 'references.'
  • Works cited entries differ in how they display the name of the original content (MLA format: Last name, First name / APA format: Last name, First initial).

Regarding in-text citations where the author's name is integrated into the sentence, there's a distinction in how page numbers and years are handled:

  • In MLA format, the page number is placed at the end of the sentence, for instance: "Smith argues that 'Nature' is a profound work (25)."
  • In APA format, the publication year is included, as in: "According to Smith (2015), 'Nature' remains a timeless masterpiece."      

Chicago Style

Chicago format is a common way of writing in academics, especially when it comes to giving credit to your sources. This means being careful about citing your references and using footnotes. These details are vital for a good essay because they show where your information comes from and make your work more trustworthy.

In Chicago, using footnotes or endnotes is a special part of the writing. These notes give extra information or references, making your essay more informative.

Using the Chicago format might seem a bit detailed, but it shows that you take your study seriously. Whether you're a student or a researcher, getting the hang of this format makes your piece more accurate and respected in academic circles.

Chicago Style Essay Format

The Chicago essay format follows the following structure:

Title page:

  • The title page focuses on spacing.
  • Place the title down the page in regular text, double-spaced if longer than one line.
  • Center your full name in the middle of the page.
  • List the course number, instructor's name, and date on separate double-spaced lines.


  • Maintain one-inch margins, except for the right side.


  • Double space throughout, avoiding extra spaces, especially between paragraphs.
  • Use Times New Roman font (12pt).

Page numbers:

  • Include your last name and page number in the heading on the top right of every page.
  • Exclude numbering on the title page; the text begins numbering from page 2.


  • The Chicago format requires footnotes for paraphrased or quoted passages.


  • Similar to MLA, the Chicago bibliography gathers proper information and is input into a specialized citation site.

Tips for Academic Paper Writing

Crafting an essay doesn't have a one-size-fits-all approach, but there are practical guidelines to ensure a smooth writing process. Whether you're tackling a college application essay, a research paper, or an informative piece, embracing a standard essay format is crucial. To simplify things, let's break down the following outline into manageable steps for your convenience. If you find yourself overwhelmed or short on time, you can pay for essay services, which can provide expert assistance tailored to your specific writing needs.

tips for essay writing

Select an Engaging Topic

Selecting a topic while working on your essay writing format is your ticket to an engaging paper. Think about what genuinely interests you or sparks your curiosity. It could be a subject you've always wanted to explore or a current issue that caught your attention. The key is to pick something that makes you want to dive into the research.

Begin Research Early

Getting a head start on your study is like giving yourself a time advantage. Delve into books, articles, and credible online sources to gather information. By beginning early, you not only avoid the last-minute rush but also give yourself time to absorb and understand the material. Early research lays the foundation for a well-informed and well-structured essay.

Choose Relevant and Interesting Sources

Opt for sources that not only provide information but also captivate your interest. Look for articles, books, and studies that are reliable and directly related to your chosen topic. It's like assembling a team of experts to support your essay—each source should contribute valuable insights to make your work more robust.

Develop an Outline

An outline acts as the skeleton of your paper, providing a framework for your thoughts. So, how to make an outline for an essay, you may wonder. First of all, begin by jotting down the main points you want to cover and organizing them logically.

Then, break down your main points into subtopics, creating a hierarchy that reflects the flow of your ideas. This step-by-step format structure not only helps you maintain focus but also ensures that your paper unfolds in a clear and organized manner.

Consider each section of your outline as a building block, contributing to the overall strength of your paper. It's a tool that allows you to see the big picture while providing a roadmap for the detailed content you'll add in each section. This systematic approach makes the writing process more manageable and results in a well-organized and coherent final product.

Craft an Initial Draft

Don't aim for perfection on the first try; think of your initial draft as a rough sketch. Get your thoughts on paper without worrying too much about perfect sentences or flawless format. This is your chance to explore ideas freely and lay the foundation for your polished final draft.

Seek Peer Feedback for Your Essay

Don't be a lone explorer in the writing process. Share your draft with a peer or a friend who can offer fresh perspectives. They can provide valuable feedback on areas that may need improvement or clarification. It's like having a second set of eyes to ensure your ideas are clear and your essay resonates with your audience.

Polish and Complete the Final Draft

Now is the time to polish your work until it shines. Review your preliminary draft with a critical eye. Focus on refining your language, ensuring clarity, and checking for any overlooked errors. It's like putting the finishing touches on a masterpiece. Take the opportunity to make your final draft a polished and well-crafted representation of your ideas.

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Samuel Gorbold, a seasoned professor with over 30 years of experience, guides students across disciplines such as English, psychology, political science, and many more. Together with EssayHub, he is dedicated to enhancing student understanding and success through comprehensive academic support.

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